- Roberts, Alexis
Fulton County and Bartow County Extension partnered to provide a timely online educational program to help farmers, farmers’ market vendors, and market managers navigate operational adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has highlighted the role local food businesses play in economic development—creating jobs and bringing money into communities. However, the local and/or organic small to medium farms that sell directly to consumers often do not have the personnel to develop adequate food safety plans to address concerns nor do they have resources to pay for third party audits or consultants. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more challenging due to stringent recommended food handling practices. COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. It is extremely unlikely that someone will catch it through eating. The virus is most likely to cause illness through respiratory transmission. Farmer’s markets play a vital role in providing access to fresh local produce. Necessary social distancing measures are completely counterculture to the farmer’s market experience. However, just like many other local businesses, farmer’s markets can’t afford to be negligent in our actions
Fulton County and Bartow County Extension provided an online educational program to help farmers, farmers’ market vendors, and market managers navigate operational adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online webinar was originally conducted for Bartow County Farmers market vendors and involved 52 attendees. Due to the overwhelming positive response, the webinar training was replicated for a state-wide audience. Delivered on April 30, 2020, the Farm to Fork: A food safety webinar was designed to address common food safety concerns facing farmers, farmers’ market managers, and other food vendors. The presentation was adapted from the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum on Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce. The hour-long webinar provided COVID-19 recommendations to keep workers safe and food safe, starting at the farm to selling at the market. General food safety practices from farm to market were also be discussed to enhance the safety of locally grown produce.
Ninety- nine people attended the food safety training from across the state of Georgia with 40% of registered attendees identifying as farmers, farmers market managers or volunteers, and food vendors. When asked to rate their knowledge level before and after the program, only 16.67% of respondents indicated that before the program they were extremely or very knowledgeable about the topics presented. After the program, 83% percent felt that they were extremely or very knowledgeable about the information presented. This is an increase in knowledge gained by 66% percent. Participants stated that the program was beneficial in numerous ways such as: • “Ideas shared to eliminate unsafe practices given COVID-19.” • “Current BMPs and recommendations for conducting business at the farmers market during the COVID-19 pandemic.” • “Understanding how complicated the route from farm to Market is. And, how many ways things can go wrong. And what needs to be in place to get things to go right. Most importantly, things I can do and be cognizant of to protect myself.” • “Reiteration of the importance of personal hygiene, product care, and consumer care with regards to foodborne illness.” Not only did participants gain knowledge, but 100 percent of respondents indicated that they would definitely or mostly likely use this information in the future, further supporting the timeliness of this program. Participants indicated plans to share the information, an increase in confidence, and a wiliness to make actionable changes. When asked to summarize their experience with the program, responses included: • “Informative and educational. I would definitely promote it to Farmers Market Managers for review.” • “I was anxious to operate a community garden during this time. Now I feel I can prepare myself for a successful season.” • “I received very valuable information that I will use for all food events.” • “I received needed information I am confident is current and research-based that I can share with others.” • “It validated things I knew and illuminated areas that are of concern given COVID-19.” A recording of this webinar was archived online at https://youtu.be/9AMpDbGIrn0 and has been viewed over 80 times since the program originally aired. This program could be easily replicated or shared with other County Extension programs to target local farmers markets. The positive feedback from our program alludes to the need for this type of training among local farmers market vendors.
Food Safety & Quality
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: State
- County: Fulton
- Location: College Station, Athens
- Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Family and Consumer Sciences
- Pugliese, Paul